“But once a calamity ever so great occurred
When two Holidays met by mistake.”
Length: 1Hr 16
About: The film follows the misadventures of Jack Skellington, Halloweentown’s beloved pumpkin king, who has become bored with the same annual routine of frightening people in the “real world.” When Jack accidentally stumbles on Christmastown, all bright colors and warm spirits, he gets a new lease on life — he plots to bring Christmas under his control by kidnapping Santa Claus and taking over the role. But Jack soon discovers even the best-laid plans of mice and skeleton men can go seriously awry.
This is an interesting film for me as I am possibly incorrectly remembering my mum banning my brother from taking me to see this film at the cinema and is perhaps how we ended up seeing Arnold Schwarzenegger fronted Junior (and even if it’s not, brother, it’s the story we’re going with! I watched Junior under protest). I won’t lie; at the time I LOVED good ol’ Arnie waddling around and pretending to be knocked up with Emma Thompson’s baby. But time has not been kind to that film and I’m not certain I’d be able to sit through it now.
It was the year after, when the film aired on my neighbour’s coveted cable, that I hazily remember seeing this film for the first time and not being completely enamored as I thought I’d be. That’s not to say 9 year old me had any taste when it came to films; I loathed Lion King the first time I saw that too.
So it’s quite curious actually that despite never declaring my love of Tim Burton’s cult, and contentiously festive, classic and probably never seeing it more than a handful of times I’ve been gratefully inundated with Jack Skellington based gifts. There are certainly other films of Burton’s that I regard much higher; Sleepy Hollow still hangs on in my ultimate top 10 films and Beetlejuice is not far away from being in it either. This has been my second viewing this year; I’d just finished watching it with my film club in school as part of our Halloween viewing so it’s been interesting watching it with Christmas in mind.
The stop motion is stunning. Jack is such a perfect character; both as a piece of artwork and as protagonist who is conflicted. While Tim Burton is only credited as the screenwriter on the project, it truly fits within his world. There’s elements that tie this up with Beetlejuice and other films in Burton’s catalogue. I can’t deny that visually, this film is a masterpiece.
Being a musical is a bit of a double edged sword for me, but for now I’ll concentrate on the positives. While I haven’t watched this all that much, I have listened to the soundtrack to death. Danny Elfman stands, for me, alongside the great John Williams for having an instantly recognisable style. Elfman has created beautiful imagery within the songs that they do stand strong away from the visual aspects of the story. There’s a wonderful homage to Beetlejuice within the film’s instrumental suite that I just adore and pulls me into this world further by implying the films are universally linked.
My favourite song will always be Kidnap the Sandy Claws sung by the trio; Lock, Shock and Barrel. Its a underrated song, but has all the charm, fun and blend of both holidays. That’s not to say I haven’t saved any love for the fan favourites, This is Halloween and What’s This?
I’m not certain it’s a kid’s film or one that fits within Disney’s branding. Which fits, as it was originally released under the Touchstone banner. It’s rather dark; visually and tonally. I’m not sure when I was a kid I was able to appreciate the approach taken by it. I’d also be weary of showing it to any children I may, or may not, have for fear of scaring them.
This, I am certain, will be an unpopular opinion but this doesn’t work as a film for me. The dialogue between the songs doesn’t quite have the punch that I need to keep me engaged with the narrative. And that’s saying something when it’s run time is 76 minutes; you can’t even get a Hobbit out of the Shire in that amount of cinematic time.
Its actually frustrating because the story is there, visually I am enchanted and I want to love it, but it’s those damn songs. They actually outshine, rather than compliment and it should never be that way.
So, I’m fond of that skeleton man. I’ll keep pining after the cookie jar the Disney Store bring out every year like Wayne Campbell after the Fender Excalibur, but I will always listen to the soundtrack before watching the movie.